Q: #290. Is it wrong for a man to have long hair?
A: The one verse in the Bible that is primarily used for saying that it is wrong for a man to have long hair is (1 Cor 11:14) which says, “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?” I am not big on making a “doctrine” based on one verse alone, but I think other Biblical principles can also come into play when considering this issue.
The first is cultural. How do the majority of men wear their hair in the culture you live in. In most cultures, it is short. I believe it is likely that this was also true of the culture at the time Paul wrote this. We do not have pictures obviously, but we do have statues and busts of leaders from that time and they had short hair, which I think is likely to reflect the style of the time.
*** Note: The pictures we have today of Bible characters (i.e. of Jesus with his long, flowing hair) come from the imagination of artists who painted these pictures centuries later. They are not based on any known facts.
The second is that the Bible makes it clear that men should look, dress, and act like masculine men, and women like feminine women (i.e. there is to be no cross-dressing: Deut 22:5). The Bible makes clear distinctions between males and females, and we should not attempt to blur those distinctions in any way.
Thirdly, it should be asked “Why do you (as a man) want to wear long hair?” Traditionally (at least in recent times), long hair has been associated with such things as rejection of authority, defiance of tradition, pride, and rebellion (think hippies). These things run contrary to Biblical principles. Instead, we are told to not rebel, to submit to authority, and to humble ourselves.
Having said these things, the Bible does have one place where long hair on a man was considered good. During a Nazarite vow (Num 6:1-21), a man was not supposed to cut his hair (Num 6:5) for the length of the vow (an unknown period of time). Several men in the Bible were actually under this vow for their entire lives: Samuel (1 Sam 1:9-11), Samson (Judg 13:3-5), and John The Baptist (Lk 1:13-17)(Mt 11:18-19). (Samson famously disobeyed this vow and paid a price for it.)
King David’s son Absalom was known for his long hair, which was cut once a year and weighed about 5 lbs when cut off (2 Sam 14:26)! However, Absalom was very rebellious, and his long hair actually led to his death (2 Sam 18:9-15). (It is interesting to me that the only two men in the Old Testament known for their long hair [Samson and Absalom], actually died because of it.)
Other than during this Nazarite vow, I don’t really see anywhere in the Bible where long hair is condoned. But, on the other hand, there is not a lot on short hair either. One final verse to consider is found in (Ezek 44:20)(NASB) which says, “Also they shall not shave their heads, yet they shall not let their locks grow long; they shall only trim the hair of their heads.”
Scholars seem divided on the length of hair in ancient times. There are some who believe that hair length was longer in Old Testament times than New Testament times. I don’t think we can ever know for sure. Ultimately, I see hair length as a secondary issue for Christians. We should not be divisive over this. However, I believe it is wise for a man to examine his reasons for wanting to wear long hair.